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A Conversation With SPP Professor and CISSM Affiliate Lena Andrews

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Thurgood Marshall Hall at UMD School of Public Policy
headshot of Lena Andrews

Lena Andrews joined the School of Public Policy in January as an Associate Research Professor. Before joining the University of Maryland, Andrews was a military analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). She also previously worked at the RAND Corporation and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). She is the author of the best-selling book, Valiant Women: The Extraordinary American Service Women Who Helped Win World War II, which tells the story of American women who served in uniform during WWII. 

Tell us about your educational and professional background.

I got my undergraduate degree at Tufts University as a political science and philosophy major. After graduating, I began to work in Washington, D.C. at USIP. I worked there for two years with the executive team who encouraged me to explore doctoral programs. I got accepted to MIT where my field of study was in security studies – specifically in military operations effectiveness. While I was getting my PhD, I was involved in a summer internship at the CIA. I had an amazing experience there that exposed me to the intelligence community and encouraged me to explore careers in that field. 

Following my PhD, I didn’t go to the academic route right away. I spent five years continuing working at the CIA as a military analyst. When Covid hit, I was suddenly left with a lot of time on my hands. I had done a lot of research on the military operations of WWII and I stumbled upon women in uniform serving as military officers. I was fascinated by their stories and frustrated by the lack of recognition of their service, so I decided to write a book about them called Valiant Women, which was published by Mariner Books in August 2023. I came to SPP to give a talk on this book during last year’s Kelleher Forum!

What attracted you to come work at SPP and CISSM?

I have three former colleagues, Alec WorsnopCat Worsnop, and Josh Shifrinson, whose work I admire greatly and who have arrived at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) in past years. When I came to SPP to give my talk at the Kelleher Forum, I realized how fulfilled all of my colleagues seemed. I had the opportunity to sit down with Dean Robert Orr and Nancy Gallagher and found that, unsurprisingly, this was an intellectually stimulating and very engaging environment for me. While talking to all of these people, I was very excited to find that  CISSM was doing excellent work on several of the issues I care, specifically international security and international development. I was also a huge admirer of Catherine Kelleher, who was such a trailblazer in the field, and I was delighted to learn more about CISSM's long-standing commitment to educating women and other under-represented groups to be leaders in the security policy field, and the existence of the Kelleher fellowship. I was looking to make a change from the intelligence community and I felt that this was the perfect opportunity for me. 

What projects are you currently working on?

In addition to absorbing all of the research that's going on at CISSM, I am also very excited about the opportunity to re-energize the intelligence certificate program that previously existed at SPP. This program is meant to train people who are interested in the intelligence community to give them the key policy, analytic, and functional skills required for success in an intelligence career. We are working with the office of executive programs to hopefully roll this out next spring. There are so many resources at SPP that make it easy to build such a great program! 

I am also teaching an intelligence policy course for undergraduates in the Fall of 2024. I am excited about the exposure to UMD undergraduates and to be back in the classroom. I have learned that some of the best research questions come from engaging with students, and I am excited to build a collaborative learning environment in the classroom. 

What do you hope to achieve in the near term now that you're settled in at SPP?

I love mentoring – particularly women and underrepresented groups. I am excited to get access to bright, young people and help them funnel into the careers they dream of. I had an amazing career in the federal government and I would love to help people to give them the same opportunities. I am already so impressed with the work SPP students are doing in class and through projects and I can’t wait to get involved with the impactful things students are doing. I am also excited to learn from many of my social policy colleagues. My research has lived between international security and domestic politics, and being in an environment with colleagues who know the domestic element well will be incredibly enriching. 

For Media Inquiries:
Megan Campbell
Senior Director of Strategic Communications
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